Last week was a lesson for me in how quickly illness can escalate in elderly people. I have been so cautious all during the Winter to prevent Mom, Dad and myself from getting any kind of cold or flu. We all had our flu jabs. Mom and Dad have already had their pneumonia jabs. Visitors did not call if they had any bugs until they were long gone. With all the pre Winter scare stories of flu epidemics due to hit us and the stress our hospitals and emergency departments were under, I wanted to ensure they stayed well. As they are elderly, I knew if they caught anything it wouldn’t be easy to get rid of.
It all started on the Thursday evening, Mom became hoarse as the evening drew on. On Friday morning she wasn’t any worse but I decided to ask the Dr to check on her, just in case it would spread to her chest. Mom is generally very healthy. However, the weekend was coming and our own Dr’s wouldn’t be available. A Dr from our surgery called in the afternoon and checked on Mom. He was happy that her chest was clear and noted that she had a slight tough of Laryngitis, take paracetamol and drink plenty of fluids. (Easier said than done with Mom). By Saturday morning Mom had regained some of her voice but she appeared to have a lot of phlegm in her throat. She slept, and slept, and slept. All day long. As she slept, the sound of the phlegm was cracking away in her throat and I felt this just wasn’t right for Laryngitis. I couldn’t rouse her for her dinner and she continually fell asleep mid sentence. I called the out of hours service, gave them the details and awaited the call back. I spoke to a Dr on the telephone who agreed this was not Laryngitis related. He would send a GP out to assess.
11pm Saturday night the GP arrived and as he examined Mom he said he was not happy with her Oxygen levels, they were dangerously low and he would send for an urgent ambulance as she needed to get to hospital. With that he left me a letter and left saying he would call the ambulance enroute to his next call. I was beside myself with worry, stress, panic and yet had to stay calm to deal with the situation. I had a bag to pack for hospital. I had care to arrange to stay with Dad whilst Mom and I were gone. I was frightened.
The paramedics arrived within minutes. They did their own checks and the oxygen levels were fine but they did agree Mom required hospital treatment. Mom wouldn’t budge. She wasn’t feeling unwell at all. It reminded me of when she broke her hip and felt no pain at all. She didn’t feel unwell now so why was she going to hospital. Bless the paramedics, they tried for at least an hour but no way would she go. They gave me the advice of what to look out for and to call 999 if anything changed. They also said that however I did it, I needed to get her to hospital on Sunday for treatment as this was now suspected pneumonia. Mom had gone back to sleep. Our neighbour was here to stay with Dad as our carer was unable to locate childcare so late into the night time.
An hour later Mom’s breathing was very laboured, I called 999, an ambulance arrived, this time three more fantastic paramedics. Again they tried and tried to get her to go with them but no way at all would she entertain it. I was beside myself with stress, fear, worry and also felt totally helpless. We discussed mental capacity; as Dad and I were both here they would not take her by force. The chief paramedic was happy enough with her stats to leave her here with me to make the call on Sunday. Hospital on Sunday was a must.
8 am Sunday morning I could see a slight blue tinge to Mom’s lips as she slept. Our carer was here by then and she agreed with me. Again I called 999 and again absolutely wonderful paramedics arrived. It took some time, a little trickery, a lot of persuasion and eventually Mom was captured in the chair, wrapped in a blanket and on her way to the ambulance. Myself and the carer travelled with her.
As we had the letter from the Dr we didn’t have to wait at accident and emergency, we could go straight through to the Assessment Ward. It was such a long day, a very long day. Stats taken, bloods taken, lots of sleeping. The Dr came to see Mom. Fluids and Antibiotics were administered via IV and within half an hour, there was a very much brighter little fairy sitting up on the bed. The consultant came to visit Mom with the Dr. They wanted to take an x-ray to check for signs of pneumonia. They were hopeful we had caught this at chest infection stage.
X-ray taken and we waited, and waited and waited. We heard a nurse say all the IT systems were down, nothing could be reviewed, patients couldn’t be admitted or discharged. We were moved to a ward for the night. Mom was agitated now. The nurses have to move quickly and get things done, they don’t have time to sit and talk Mom into moving from one bed to another. Mom’s confusion set in and it took over two hours for her mood to settle. The Dr visited us around 10pm Sunday night, he was happy that there wasn’t any pneumonia on the x-ray, we had caught it in time. He felt Mom would heal better at home in her own environment. More antibiotics were administered through the IV and we were given antibiotic syrup to take for five days.
The next hurdle was to get home. At first Mom wouldn’t move. Thankfully our lovely carer had returned from sorting out her sons’ school uniforms for Monday and she was able to talk Mom into going home. Mom would not sit on the chair to be wheeled to the entrance, she insisted on walking. It was a long walk for her. Again I was stressed out; how would the walk go, would she be able for it, at least we were in hospital. My fairy of a Mom made the walk slowly, sat into the carer’s car and chatted all the way home.
When we got back, Mom sat into her favourite chair, drank tea and fell asleep. She was already feeling so much better than earlier that morning. Dad was now coming down with something so it was a call to our own GP on Monday morning and Dad was examined Monday afternoon, a chest infection building and antibiotics prescribed.
It has been a hard week in more ways than one. I’ve had a rush of different feelings and emotions, from frantic worry and stress of possibly losing Mom to relief that it was caught in time to worry about Dad getting a chest infection on top of his other ailments. By the end of the week I was coming down with something. Tiredness, stresses, strains, worries all added to sleeplessness to make me feel unwell…but who cares for the carer?
Mom has recovered very well thank god. Sleeping all day on the Saturday with no intake of fluids or food had increased her confusion hence her refusal to comply with the paramedics and go to hospital. I have to say that usually Mom is fabulous with anyone from the health profession, being an ex nurse herself. Dad has also recovered well although he seems tonight to be heading for another cold of some sort. That’ll be Doctors again tomorrow.
Once again I find myself thanking and being very thankful for our absolutely amazing National Health Service and the Dr’s, the nurses, trainee’s and our wonderful paramedics. They do the most amazing job, 24/7 and they are worth their weight in gold. Whatever they get paid it just isn’t enough for what they do.
I’m still finding it incredible that slight Laryngitis Friday afternoon had become suspected pneumonia by Saturday night. You really do need to be aware and hawk eye as a carer. If I had left it one more day it would have been a very different story.
In these cases, the feeling of helplessness is overwhelming. It was all happening around me and very little I could actually do but be there.
This is a fairly long blog post from me which is kind of unusual. I love my blogging, I find it therapeutic and almost like a diary of my life events. I needed to write this episode down, to process my thoughts and try to deal with them.
Thank you for listening x